March Bookclub Review: Coldbrook

Saturday 29 March 2014 by

Coldbrook, Book, Horror, Tim Lebbon, HammerColdbrook by Tim Lebbon

Published by Hammer

Death is just the beginning…

The world as we know it has changed

The reason is Coldbrook

The facility lay deep in the Appalachian Mountains, a secret laboratory called Coldbrook.  Theirs was to be the greatest discovery in the history of mankind, but they had no idea what they were unleashing.

Now the disease is out and ravaging the human population.  The only hope is a cure and the only cure is genetic resistance, an uninfected person amongst the billions dead.  In the chaos of global destruction there is only one that can save the human race.

But will they find her in time?


So, it has zombies. You already know I’m going to like this book, right!?

Coldbrook tells the story of a group of scientists who open up a portal in to a parallel universe – opening doorways in to the multiverse (roughly: the idea that with every decision made, there is a parallel world making the other decision and thus taking itself down a different path).

But when they open the portal, something comes through – something that used to be human and likes to bite. The zombies spread from the facility, and – in true zombie apocalypse style – it spreads fast. Our main characters are left scattered across the country (and universes) in a desperate fight to survive, and to find a cure.

To me, this felt less Horror and more sci-fi. The appearance of The Inquisitor made it even more so, and I felt that this would fare better if it was offered as a sci-fi romp, because I was never really scared by anything that happened. Perhaps I’m just immune to zombies. What I was more invested in is the play of the characters against one another – Vic in particular, whose initial act of cowardice begins the whole sorry thing, and Sean, whose quiet reassurance belies his inner turmoil. I never really invest in Holly as a hero, but Jonah and Jayne are simply fabulous, and I’m with them the whole way through.

The zombies themselves are pretty well thought out. You can tell Lebbon is a bit of a zombie fan too, and provides us with enough zombie-origins-story to make them feel like a genuine threat. Is it a plausible backstory? If I’m honest, that whole Inquisitor thing could have been cut and it would have been better for it. I just didn’t understand the point – was it some commentary on religion? Or was it a hook on which to hang the plot that just made sense at the time? What would have been better to split the two; a zombie story, and then a story about Inquisitors (without zombies). Half the reason I wasn’t fussed about it was because it wasn’t given enough time to stretch its legs – each scene was a filler for whatever was happening with the others, and the whole story felt weaker for it.

Having said all that, I did devour this book like it was my last days on Earth. I could not stop reading it! It has a compelling quality, a fast-paced habit of dragging you along with it, like an action film (but with better plot). The quick introduction of each character is well done – you are never overwhelmed by info-dump, but you are given enough to go with it and invest in them. Even Chaney, who appears for a grand total of about 20 pages, is a character worth remembering.

But the zombies are the best bit for me. Lebbon has carefully thought about what he wanted to draw from the generic idea of what a zombie should be and what he wanted to change. As with any supernatural creature you want to write, you have to keep it recognisable, but not fall in to the trap of making it so generic that it’s forgettable. The hooting is a particular favourite change of mine; after all, we’re used to growls and moans and noises from zombies. What if they were just really quiet? What if they could communicate by hooting? Yeah, now that’s spooky.

This is a good book- the zombies are pretty brilliant and the characters don’t fade in to the background either. But the overall concept, with the multiverse and The Inquisitor, let the book down for me. It just didn’t feel plausible enough. When a zombie outbreak happens because it’s a virus, it feels more plausible than something coming through a portal that’s been released by some religious nutjob. The two halves – the zombies and character stories and the overarching plot – just didn’t hang comfortably together. But I will remember those hooting zombies.

Rating, Review, Three

What did you think of Coldbrook?

April‘s House of Blog Bookclub is something quite different! This month, we are reading a non-fiction book: The Pike by Lucy Hughes-Hallett. Tweet your thoughts through the hashtag #HoBBookclub on Twitter or write on the wall on the House of Blog Facebook page.

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  1. Loralei Haylock

    Zombies weren’t really scary enough for me. They were pretty bloody scary, but because they took rather a back seat to all that inquisitor stuff, it didn’t really live up to what I was expecting. still a great book, just not what I was hoping for from it!

    • Fran

      I agree – the Inquisitor stuff overtook the zombies and actually that wasn’t the most interesting bit…


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